Unconvincing Wallabies scrape past Italy - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Unconvincing Wallabies scrape past Italy

By Darren Walton 12/11/2006 06:05:24 AM Comments (0)

Australia broke its tour duck with an unconvincing 25-18 victory over Italy in Saturday's rugby Test in Rome.

Tries to five-eighth Mat Rogers, prop Guy Shepherdson and centre Stirling Mortlock and four goals from Mortlock were just enough to give the Wallabies their first away win in 12 months.

It was anything but comfortable, though, with the Italians leading 15-13 at half-time thanks to the boot of five-eighth Ramiro Pez and threatening to pull off a massive upset.

It wasn't until rampaging No.8 Wycliff Palu put Mortlock over in the 71st minute to give Australia a 25-18 lead that the Wallabies were safe from suffering one of their worst ever Test defeats.

The match exploded in the third minute when Australian hooker Brendan Cannon lashed out at Italian centre Gonzalo Canale, leaving Welsh referee Nigel Owens with little option but to send Cannon to the sin bin.

The Italians capitalised on their one-man advantage to pile on three penalty goals in Cannon's absence, Pez making the Wallabies pay for a series of fundamental errors.

Stephen Larkham was pinged twice for obstruction as he made a clumsy effort to adjust to life at inside centre, while Australia's struggling scrum also infringed on two occasions to hand the home team a 9-0 start.

Australia finally posted its first points through a penalty goal to skipper Mortlock in the 21st minute but Pez replied shortly after to restore Italy's nine-point advantage.

Larkham atoned for his earlier blunders when he ghosted through the Italian defence to put Rogers over for the first try of the game in the 27th minute.

Mortlock's conversion narrowed the gap to two points before he landed a second penalty to put the Wallabies ahead for the first time after 33 minutes.

But Pez gave the Italians a deserved lead at the break with his fifth penalty on the stroke of halftime.

Shepherdson nudged the Wallabies back in front two minutes into the second half when he gathered the ball from the back of the lineout and dived over for his first Test try.

Mortlock added the extras to make it 20-15 but another Pez penalty in the 56th minute had the Italians a little too close for Wallabies coach John Connolly's comfort.

The mistakes continued from Australia with Rogers kicking out on the full, Cannon not throwing straight into the lineout, Larkham having an attempted clearing kick charged down and George Smith knocking on at a ruck.

It all amounted to enormous pressure on the Wallabies but they hung in despite finishing the match with 14 men after winger Lote Tuqiri was sin-binned late in the game for fighting.

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